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Bethlehem Elementary welcomes new Principal

Sue Greenlaw recently completed her first week as the new Principal of Bethlehem Elementary School. She has been a staff member at the school since 1989. (Courtesy Photo) (click for larger version)
September 05, 2019
BETHLEHEM — Sue Greenlaw is no stranger to public education. After 30 years as a teacher and guidance counselor at the Bethlehem Elementary School, she has made the leap to administration. BES recently welcomed her as the new principal, after Shelli Roberts tendered her resignation last year.

Greenlaw's first week in the new role faced a bit of controversy. The school's playground was recently wrapped with privacy fencing, which came as a startling surprise to some within the community.

"Homeland Security does routine safety reports and makes recommendations. That happened last year," said Greenlaw. "The school received grant funding for approximately $42,000, and with that money came a list of things we would do to make the school safer. The fence was part of that list."

According to Greenlaw, the school's safety committee, which included both the fire chief and the police chief, reviewed what could be done to make the grounds safer. The team looked at several fencing options and she said that cost was a significant factor that guided the decision-making process.

"We were concerned that people would sit in the parking lot and watch the kids at recess. That made us a bit nervous. The fence came up in conversation at several board meetings last year," she explained.

Greenlaw continued, "Unfortunately, we live in a what-if world. When I started working here in 1989, anyone could walk into any one of our doors. Sometimes, schools are the target of horrible things and we want to make sure we cover all the bases. It's been a gradual upping of our safety. The fence was the last piece."

When asked what she sees as the school's biggest challenges, Greenlaw said, "Becoming a trauma-sensitive school was the beginning of the transformation of BES. Understanding trauma in any given classroom and how it affects people's brains is important. The traditional discipline doesn't necessarily work in all situations."

"As a staff, we are always looking for ways to engage the kids. What worked thirty years ago does not work now. It was a shift for me. I came from the more traditional learning environment, so it's exciting to see the changes," Greenlaw explained.

She received her Master's degree in Education in 1989.

Greenlaw also described her list of first-year goals as principal. She mentioned the continual development of the school's trauma response program, an increase in the school's connections to the community, and taking care of the students' needs.

"We have to take care of the kids first. Teaching and standards are important, but caring for them comes first," she stated.

Bethlehem Elementary School currently offers educational services to 157 students from Pre-K to sixth grade. According to Greenlaw, preschool classes were added four years ago because it became more cost-effective than outsourcing the school's specialists to area preschools. In addition to Greenlaw, BES also welcomes Kin Senter as a new second-grade teacher, Sara Cascaden as the school's new Reading/Writing Specialist and RTI (Response to Instruction) Coordinator and two new paraprofessionals.

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